Feds invest $381 million in Ontario’s back to school plan

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By Nick Seebruch
Feds invest $381 million in Ontario’s back to school plan
A toddler waiting to catch the school bus. File photo.

ONTARIO – In an announcement on Wednesday, Aug. 26 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $2 billion in federal funds to support provincial school re-opening plans so they can re-open safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province of Ontario is receiving $381 million on top of the $900 million they claim to already be putting towards their re-opening plan.

“Ontario’s investments lead the nation in supporting priorities like more cleaning, physical distancing, testing, and hiring of staff to ensure a safe reopening of our schools this September,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “Today’s investment by the Federal government complements the already landmark investments made by our government in support of safe and healthy schools in Ontario.”

The province listed several areas where the funding will be used.

  • Reopening Plan Implementation – $200 million
  • $100 million to complement the health and safety components of school reopening plans, in consultation with local public health units, including the hiring of custodians, HVAC, improvements, internet connectivity for students and other local needs.
  • $30 million to support additional PPE for schools.
  • $70 million for the temporary hiring of educators as required.
  • Student Transportation – $70 million
  • $44.5 million in support of the Driver Retention Program (DRP).
  • $25.5 million for route protection and to help reduce the number of students on buses. Special Education and Mental Health Supports Enhancement – $12.5 million
  • Will allow boards to hire and train additional staff and provide more mental health supports for students.
    Additional Public Health Nurses – $12.5 million Supports up to 125 additional nursing positions in public health units across the province to help schools manage potential COVID-19 cases.
  • Remote Learning – $36 million. Ensures that every school board offering virtual learning has a dedicated principal and
    administrative support for both its secondary and elementary virtual schools.

Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry Progressive Conservative MPP Jim McDonell applauded the announcement.

“I am happy to see the Federal Government come to the education table. As Premier Ford states often, our children are our highest priority and we must do all we can to protect them and ensure their success,” said McDonell.

The Ontario Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) welcomed the announcement of further funding, but framed it as a bail out for what they termed was the Ford Government’s lack of leadership.

“(W)e need to make sure that rather than letting the Ford government off the hook for their lack of leadership, Ontarians are intensifying the pressure on Premier Ford and Minister Lecce to finally live up to their responsibility to protect our communities,” said Liz Stuart, President of OECTA. “In their haphazard approach, the Ford government has thus far failed to listen to medical experts about what is needed to keep schools safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the same standards for physical distancing, hand sanitation, and ventilation as are expected in the rest of the province. There remains a strong need for the Ford government to consult with public health experts and teacher representatives, and to put forward the provincial resources necessary to ensure all reasonable precautions are in place when schools reopen. By accepting the federal government’s assistance, the Ford government will have to admit that they know their school reopening plan has significant gaps, they are just unwilling to fill them. However, they still have a chance to do the right thing.”

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